by Mary Ellen Collins
I never touch anyone without permission, because touching can feel threatening.
“Is it Ok to hug you?” “No” she says. I immediately put out my hand. She shakes mine. I can tell she doesn’t trust hugs. To her, hugs are conditional. They say to her I want something from you.
At the conclusion of our next class, she thanks God for sending her all of these women to hug her. What? Did I just hear her right?
She proceeds to ask if she can hug me. I choke my words of amazement down and a simple yes comes out of my mouth. From that event onward, she envelopes me into her arms as she enters and exits. And she rocks me. Really? Yes.
Many women who come to the Motherless Daughters Ministry are so broken. They have only known conditional love. They have not been touched with unconditional love for many years if at all. They melt into my open arms with the slightest initiation. They feel safe. They Just need the touch of another woman.
A mother’s touch is soft. When she holds you, you may be gently rocked. It is enveloping and you just want to stay there.
I have not always been a hugger. I had to go to hugging school. I was too raw and vulnerable to touch someone and not know whether or not they would be there for me. I guess I was afraid I would fall apart in my grief.
Holding my emotions close was a survival technique. If people don’t know, they can’t hurt me. I was alone with my emotions. Not safe to show them. They might be used against me. Once I released my fear, the warmth of hugs held me captive and I wanted more and more. Now my cup overflows and I can give to others what I have received.
The power of touch was driven home for me when I worked as an ER nurse. I felt so bad for the woman who was waiting for her fate. Cancer had riddled her body. It was eating her alive.
Her pain had taken her prisoner, and she yelled for the guards to release her. We were only to give her a place to wait. As I helped her into the bed, she held onto me and wailed about her jailer.
I began gently rubbing her back and humming to her. Slowly she settled down. Soon her eyes closed and she rested.
As she breathed heavily, I went to inform her husband that she was sleeping. With confusion, he says, “I don’t understand. What are you saying? ‘She is sleeping.’ How did that happen?”
“I sang to her and gently rubbed her back.”
“I still don’t understand.”
Opening his hands, he showed me two small comma-shaped devices. “She can’t hear. She’s deaf.”
Today, I freely hug those who want my gift. It is real. It is unconditional. No strings attached. Touch has the power to soothe. Touch has the power to say you are safe with me.
I am reaching out to hug all who read these words. I give this to you freely.